As a professor, I teach courses on neurophilosophy, the foundations of reasoning, science & pseudoscience, and interdisciplinary general education. My current research focuses on Bayesian models of brain function and quantitative models of theoretic adequacy. More generally, I am interested in making rigorous ideas more broadly approachable and entertaining; I give frequent public lectures, and write for general audiences (e.g. my 2007 book If Not God, Then What?, and two works in progress: Fables for a Young Skeptic and The Thinker’s Toolbox). As a technologist, my current work is focused on the use of semantic technology to relate “big questions” to course offerings and give students and administrators an easy way to visualize and navigate such relationships. I also have a six-year background as a private-sector CTO and am actively pursuing business versions of some of the aforementioned projects.
(Jul 2007 – Present) Assistant Professor, Portland State University
- (Course): Life Unlimited? – the science and philosophy of artificial life, synthetic biology, genetic engineering, and transhumanism.
- (Course): Philosophy of Cognitive Science – review of the symbolic, neural, and embodied approaches to cognitive science.
- (Course): Minds & Machines – topics in philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence, and models of cognition and consciousness.
- (Course): Knowledge, Rationality, and Understanding – introduction to human reasoning, probability, and inductive logic.
- (Course): Science & Pseudoscience – constructs the baloney detection toolkit, applies it to contemporary pseudosciences.
- (Course): Design & Society – sociocultural and engineering topics connected with architecture, industrial & graphic design.
- (Course): Embracing Einstein’s Universe – the evolution of modern physics and its relationship to paradigm shifts in literature and art.
- (Course): Entering the Cyborg Millennium – neuro- and genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, transhumanism.
- Coordinator of dual-credit academic program offering college courses to high school seniors. Created marketing, managed student admission and program financing. Developed strategic plans for university/community engagement.
- Launched Big Questions colloquium series.
(Mar 2007 – Jun 2007) Field Instructor, Northwest Outdoor Science School
- Designed curriculum and taught animal biology to 6th-grade students in an outdoor field biology setting.
- Emphasized integration of lessons with soil, water, and plant biology.
- Created and supervised recreational / educational activities.
- Advocated for evolution curriculum against public school teacher objections.
(Sep 2005 – Dec 2005) Visiting Assistant Professor, Hampshire College
- Taught "Beauty & the Brain: The neurobiology of aesthetic experience." 200-level course in School of Cognitive Science.
- Interdisciplinary content, including neuroscience, philosophy, art, mathematics.
- Readings from Zeki, Santayana, Danto, Ramachandran, many others.
- High demand from students exceeded limit of 25.
(Oct 2004 – Jun 2005) Math & Biology Tutor, StudySmart
- Taught weekly one-on-one sessions with freshman and junior high school students.
- Improved grades from D to B-level. Increased enthusiasm and discipline overall.
(Jan 1995 – Jun 1995) Teaching Assistant, Princeton University
(Sep 1993 – Dec 1993) Teaching Assistant, Princeton University
- Led review and lab sessions for vision and cortical physiology course – Prof. Charles Gross.
- Led review sessions for introductory course "The Brain: A Users Guide" – Prof. Barry Jacobs.
- Graded exams and essays for classes of 25-40 students.
(Nov 2004 – Sep 2005) Director, IT Leadership Council, Computerworld
Publisher of weekly enterprise IT newspaper, executive conferences and web services. A division of IDG (International Data Group).
- Founder & Director of new practice: membership organization for CIOs.
- Responsible for concept, sales & marketing, technology, staffing, service delivery, P/L.
- Grew membership to 185+ senior IT executives in three months. Superlative testimonials.
- Organized 30+ moderated teleconferences, face-to-face meetings. Launched CIO Speakers Bureau.
- Delivered web-based groupware site for document sharing, collaboration, discussions.
- Developed strategies for partnership with other councils.
(Nov 2000 – May 2004) Chief Technology Officer, Colliers International
A $1B global commercial real-estate company offering brokerage, development, investment, and other corporate services through 7,600 people in 238 offices.
- Directed and implemented international IT strategy. Built strong reputation with Board of Directors.
- Focused development on data integration and seamless interaction between business units.
- Led overhaul of 15-language, 10,000 page website, including RFP and implementation of enterprise-wide content management system.
- Built global LDAP- and XML-based corporate directory consolidating contact and authentication information from 56 companies.
- Developed and deployed custom CRM, deal tracking, and resource availability applications.
- Led strategy for development, upgrade, and marketing of 7000-user international corporate intranet.
- Managed outsourced datacenter through tumultuous market conditions.
- Directed LAN management (data and voice), including local and international remote users.
- Regular communication with US and International Boards of Directors.
(Jul 1999 – Sep 2000) Vice President & CTO, Infosis Corp.
A 150-person startup offering the publishing industry (catalogs, magazines and newspapers) outsourced internet content conversion services.
- Managed R&D team of 12 over multiple projects, directed product development, built extranet and redesigned corporate website.
- Managed infrastructure team of 8. Built fault-tolerant in-house and outsourced datacenters to support local offices and 200+ clients.
- Managed domestic and foreign patents, including intellectual property strategies and infringement litigation.
- Radically improved software engineering lifecycle, including project management, functional and technical specification writing, and code structure.
- Integrated remote users and offices with VPN and e-mail.
- Provided business advice to CEO and CFO on technical and non-technical matters concerning product direction, client relationship management, risk and crisis management, etc.
(Jul 1998 – Jul 1999) Project Leader, ThomsonConsulting
250-person technology consulting wing of Thomson Corp., a $6B decentralized information and publishing conglomerate. Specialized in software development and content management.
- Led high-profile project and a 10-person team to design and implement a real-time financial data streaming application. Received numerous accolades for on-time delivery.
- Built Program Plan for large-scale content management system. Consolidated feature analysis of multiple packages and custom tools.
- Helped design internal knowledge management system.
- Developed on-line business-school application.
(1996 – 1998) Postdoctoral fellow, Neuroscience, Brandeis University
- Research in computational and physiological neuroscience.
- Built multi-electrode recording system for brain slices.
- Administered 20 machine LAN (Unix, Win 95/NT).
(1991 – 1996) Ph.D., M.A., Psychology & Neuroscience, Princeton University
- Studied computational models of learning, feedback in autonomous systems.
- Dissertation on biophysically realistic model of neural plasticity in Hermissenda.
(1991) Research fellow, Office of Naval Research
- Member of Autonomous Vehicles Lab at Naval Ocean Systems Center.
- Developed biologically inspired model of artificial visual system.
(1989) Research student, NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center
- Created self-organizing neural network for data analysis.
- Developed code on massively parallel supercomputer.
(1987 – 1991) B.A. Neuroscience, B.A. Philosophy, Bowdoin College (cum laude)
- Wrote two independent studies: computational neuroscience and philosophy of mind.
Awards and recognition
- 2012, Center for Inquiry / Portland, Award for Innovative Promotion of Science and Philosophy (Jul 1)
- 2011, Portland Humanist Film Festival, Grand Prize for Best Short Film ("Science is a vaccine")
- 2004, InfoWorld magazine – quoted in article on IT bargaining (Feb 16)
- 2004, InfoWorld magazine – named one of "Top 25 CTOs of 2004" (Jan 26)
- 2002, BusinessWeek magazine – work on data integration cited (Mar 18)
- 2001, Real Estate Forum – appeared in cover story, "Power Brokers" (July issue)
- 1997, Sloan Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship
- 1996 – 1997, National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellowship
- 1995, Princeton University Honorific Fellowship – voted by faculty one of 11 best dissertations
- 1991 – 1994, Office of Naval Research Predoctoral Fellowship
- Fost JW (2007) If Not God, Then What? Neuroscience, aesthetics, and the origins of the transcendent. (Salem, OR: Clearhead Studios, Inc.)
- Fost JW (in progress) Fables for a Young Skeptic
- Fost JW (in progress) The Thinker’s Toolbox
- Rizzuto DS & Fost JW (2012) "Transhumanism and cognitive enhancement," in Haag J, Peterson G, and Spezio M (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science.
- Fost JW (2013) The extended self, functional constancy, and personal identity. Linguistic and Philosophical Investigations 12:47-66.
- Fost JW (2012) On being a scientist. Free Inquiry 32(6), October/November issue.
- Fost JW (2012) Semantic technology and the question-centric curriculum. Innovative Higher Education. doi:10.1007/s10755-012-9219-y
- Fost JW (2005) Fight dogma, not religion. Free Inquiry 25(6):56-57.
- Fost JW (2004) Toward the Glass Bead Game – a rhetorical invention. Leonardo 37(3).
- Fost JW (1999) Neural rhythmicity, feature binding, and serotonin: a hypothesis. The Neuroscientist 5: 79-85.
- Varela JA, Sen K, Gibson J, Fost JW, Abbott LF, and Nelson SB (1997) A quantitative description of short-term plasticity at excitatory synapses in layer 2/3 of rat primary visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience 17: 7926-7940
- Fost JW (1996) Computational and Physiological Analysis of Neural Plasticity in Hermissenda. PhD thesis, Princeton University.
- Fost JW and Clark GA (1996) Modeling Hermissenda: I. Differential contributions of IA and IC reductions to type-B cell plasticity. Journal of Computational Neuroscience 3: 137-153.
- Fost JW and Clark GA (1996) Modeling Hermissenda: II. Effects of variations in type-B cell excitability, synaptic strength, and network connectivity. Journal of Computational Neuroscience 3: 155-172.
- Fost JW and Clark GA (1996) Contributions of enhanced type-B cell excitability and synaptic strength to inhibition of type-A cells in Hermissenda: A physiological analysis. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 21: 1403.
- Fost JW and Clark GA (1994) Contributions of enhanced type-B cell excitability and synaptic strength to inhibition of type-A cells in Hermissenda: A computational analysis. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 20: 230.
- Fost JW and Clark GA (1994) Computational analysis of cellular and circuit learning mechanisms in Hermissenda. Proceedings of Cold Spring Harbor Conference on Learning and Memory.
- Fost JW and Clark GA (1993) Computational analysis of contributions of K+ currents to learning-dependent changes in Hermissenda type-B photoreceptors. Society for Neuroscience Abstracts 19: 580.
- 10-Nov-2013, Kol Shalom Center for Humanistic Judaism, "Are there psychological species?"
- 21-Oct-2011, Center for Inquiry / Portland, "Living without a soul, dying without a god."
- 20-Apr-2011, Intel Corp., "The scientific worldview: Where the practical meets the beautiful."
- 27-Mar-2011, NW Regional Freethought Conference, "Living without a soul, dying without a god."
- 24-Mar-2010, Secular Humanists of East Portland, "The neurobiology of religious experience."
- 21-Feb-2010, Kol Shalom Center for Humanistic Judaism, "News of the death of dualism has been greatly exaggerated."
- 5-Nov-2009, Oregonians for Science and Reason, "Language and reality."
- 3-Oct-2009, Boise State University, "Living without a soul, dying without god."
- 27-Sep-2009, West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, "The neurobiology of religious experience."
- 13-Aug-2009, City Employees of Portland, "The neurobiology of religious experience."
- 31-May-2009, Humanists of Greater Portland, "The neurobiology of religious experience."
- 29-Mar-2009, NW Freethought Alliance, "The neurobiology of aesthetic (and other peak) experiences"
- 27-Oct-2006, Science Integration Institute, "Neuroscience, free will, and responsibility"
- 18-Nov-2013, Portland State Univ., "Free will and the brain."
- 27-Aug-2013, Aesthetics and the Embodied Mind Conference, "A neuro-evolutionary mechanism for aesthetic phenomenology."
- 02-Mar-2012, PSU Math Club, "How to use math to impress people and get ahead in real jobs."
- 25-Oct-2011, Sigma Xi Columbia-Willamette Chapter, "Rescuing science from the scientists."
- 15-Sep-2011, Carleton College, "One App to Bind Them: Visualizing the curriculum with semantic technology."
- 6-Sep-2011, Weber State Univ., "Big questions, semantic technology, and student engagement."
- 17-May-2011, Wagner College, "Big questions, semantic technology, and student engagement."
- 2-Feb-2011, PSU Nuts & Bold Ideas seminar, "Time to make fallacies illegal."
- 28-Jan-2011, AAC&U Annual Conference, "Big questions, semantic technology, and student engagement."
- 13-Nov-2010, AAC&U Bringing Theory to Practice Conference (invited panelist) "What does the world need from you?"
- 3-May-2009, Stanford Univ., "Gamma rhythmicity, neuroaesthetics, and the religious experience."
- 17-Nov-2007, Portland State Univ., "A return to eugenics?"
- 04-Nov-2006, Louisiana State Univ., "The neuropsychology of religious and aesthetic unification"
- 02-Nov-2006, Western Oregon Univ., "Faith vs. skepticism in environmental ethics"
- 25-Oct-2006, Portland State Univ., "Neuroscience, free will, and responsibility"
- 20-Oct-2006, Western Oregon Univ., "The neurobiology of religious experience"
- 08-Dec-2005, Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation, "Serotonin and neural rhythmicity in autism"
- 14-Nov-2004, Hampshire College, "Neural explanations of aesthetic experience"
- 20-Feb-1998, Brandeis Univ., "Neural rhythmicity, feature binding, and serotonin: a hypothesis"
- 19-Feb-1998, Brandeis Univ., "Active filters in dendrites"
- 18-Nov-1997, Brandeis Univ., "LTP in awake mutant mice"
- 29-Aug-1997, Brandeis Univ., "Network models of attentionally-gated learning"
- 19-Nov-1996, Society for Neuroscience, "Contributions of enhanced type-B cell excitability and synaptic strength to inhibition of type-A cells in Hermissenda: a physiological analysis"
- 18-Oct-1996, Brandeis Univ., "Involvement of pre- and post-synaptic mechanisms in posttetanic potentiation at Aplysia synapses"
- 03-May-1996, Princeton Univ., "Computational and physiological analysis of neural plasticity in Hermissenda: from potassium currents to network architecture"
- 23-Apr-1996, Princeton Univ., "Computational and physiological analysis of neural plasticity in Hermissenda"
- 28-Mar-1995, Princeton Univ., "Computational modeling and the biophysics of memory in Hermissenda"
- 15-Mar-1994, Society for Neuroscience, "Contributions of enhanced type-B cell excitability and synaptic strength to inhibition of type-A cells in Hermissenda: a computational analysis"
- 14-Oct-1994, Cold Spring Harbor, "Computational analysis of cellular and circuit learning mechanisms in Hermissenda"
- 09-Apr-1994, Rutgers Univ., "A computational approach to the biological basis of learning and memory in Hermissenda"
- 09-Apr-1993, Society for Neuroscience, "Computational analysis of contributions of K+ currents to learning-dependent changes in Hermissenda type-B photoreceptors"
- 12-Oct-1992, Princeton Univ., "Neuropharmacology and biophysics of GABA receptors"
- 26-Mar-1992, Princeton Univ., "Gene expression and long-term synaptic facilitation"
- 10-Dec-1991, Princeton Univ., "Neural networks and pattern recognition"
- 25-Jul-1990, NASA GSFC, "Using Kohonen networks to find clusters in high-dimensional satellite data"
Invited business talks
- Mar-2004, Seybold-mediated Panel on Content Management
- Sep-2003, Forrester-mediated Panel on Content Management
- Jul-2001, RealComm Forum on Application Integration